The crowds at the second day of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) 5th Global Forum in Vienna shrunk considerably from the media-frenzy atmosphere of the first day.
Heads of state, other top dignitaries and their entourages had mostly cleared out; and an atrium inside the Hofburg palace previously reserved for VIPs became a sunlight-filled lunch area for remaining conference participants.
To begin the day, Beijing University professor and founding dean Tu Weiming delivered a keynote speech. Weiming has called for a more pragmatic approach by governments and civil society organizations in reaching out to build a more diverse and tolerant world.
He highlighted China’s desire to create a dialogue based on diversity through acceptance of universal human rights. He said China experienced internal migration of approximately 200 million people in the past 20 years. He stated that when values of diverse religious ideals are respected and recognized the transition from modernization to globalization will be easily achieved.
“It is not enough to have rationality, even communicative rationality. We need to have sympathy, empathy and compassion,” Weiming said. “Conflict and tension in China will lead to not only instability in the Pacific region but in the global sense.”
Contributing to the issue, Professor Candido Mendes of the UNAOC high-level group said the challenge is to understand that trying to marginalize and isolate migrants often is what leads to conflict.
Throughout the day participants shuffled among workshops that continued the conversations begun the previous day related to the three main topics of the forum: media, religion and migration.
In one session, students from five journalism schools around the globe presented the findings from an international data journalism research project sponsored by the UNAOC and the European Journalism Centre (EJC). The study assessed coverage of migration in the news during election periods to gauge how supportive or adversarial the coverage was relative to the universal declaration of human rights.
In France, 27 news outlets were sampled and most of the coverage surrounded law and policy-making. In Canada, migration coverage mostly appeared in opinion pieces and concerned a proposal to remove religious symbols from the public sphere. In Germany, culture and religion were the most covered topics surrounding migration. In the Netherlands, articles lacked variety in interview sources. In the United States coverage of the 2012 presidential election, 71 percent of articles on migration were neutral in their presentation of migration topics.
The schools involved were: Kings University, Canada; Deutsche Welle, Germany; University of Missouri School of Journalism, USA; Christelijke Hogeschool Ede, Netherlands; and Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, France.
In another session about the ethics of communication, the repeated theme was the importance of a social media platform.
Susan Moeller, of the International Center for Media and Public Agenda, said social media can be more effective with control and education. Without this education, social media could potentially be an instrument for confusion, mistrust and intolerance. Moeller also mentioned Japan, Haiti and Kenya as an example of how Twitter was positively used to galvanize support during conflict and disaster.
Alfonso Molina, professor of Technology Strategy at the University of Edinburgh, spoke on control of content and responsible use of social media to help minimize the negative effects of the few who use the tools for their own individual interests.
Another speaker Ömür Orhun, of the OIC said social media add to the existing tools of communication and delivering information that is beneficial when appropriate steps are taken to control use.
He emphasized that if social media are not well managed they could become a tool for ideologists and extremists to create phobia and fuel conflict. He closed by asking all politicians, academics and those involved in civil society to help in educating and controlling the social media platform.
The lunch hour included an invite-only reception with Her Royal Highness Princess Rym Ali of Jordan. She presented the recommendations drafted a seminar on media and migration held in January in Paris. Fritz Cropp, associate dean for global programs at the Missouri School of Journalism, also presented a video from the Paris seminar.
There were four afternoon sessions about the role of the UNAOC in the world.
Among them was a session on Latin America, where panelists and members of the audience discussed social issues in Latin America and how the UNAOC could become involved.
Fernando Casas, the moderator, said the UNAOC has approved a strategy for its social efforts in Latin America, and has identified 14 areas where it could develop programs. Those include promoting gender equality, fighting poverty and helping integrate people of African origin.
Now that the strategy has been approved, the next step is to develop a plan for how it will be implemented. The plan has to be developed by the end of the year, Casas said.
In the closing session, speakers evaluated the three pillars of the forum based on the progress made. In regards to religion, Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion, urged the audience to move from “interfaith thoughts to interfaith actions” for creation of realistic dialogue.
For media, a representative spoke on decreasing hate speech and increasing ethnic diversity present in the media industry.
For migration, Christian Strohal, ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Austria at Geneva, discussed how to increase the use of data surrounding migration, the need to improve perceptions and the economic aspects of migration.
Two young people also presented recommendations developed during the Youth Event on Tuesday. The inclusion of the recommendations excited the young people in the audience, who erupted into applause when prompted to show their support. The youth recommendation can be found on the UNAOC website.
A series of speeches summarizing the forum composed the second half of the closing session. Austrian Secretary-General Dr. Johannes Kyrle praised the UNAOC for its creation of “intercultural amnesty.” Belén Alfaro Hernández, ambassador-at-large for the UNAOC Spain, thanked Austria for its support of the forum.
Ambassador Abdurrahman Fachir, director general for information and public diplomacy in Indonesia, officially recognized Indonesia as the host of the 6th Global Forum to be held next year.
The new high representative of the UNAOC, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, closed the session by thanking the retiring high representative for this work. He remarked on the future plans of the UNAOC.
“We will seek new tools, working through artists and sportsmen to help spread our message of peace and coexistence,” Al-Nasser said. “The path I refer to will not be smooth but will have twists and turns, but we will always work to move forward along that path.”
Reported by Julia Boudreau and Fedor Zarkhin, Missouri School of Journalism (USA); and Nathaniel Laryea, TV3 Network Ltd. (Ghana). Video produced by Laura Davison and Varvara Fomina, Missouri School of Journalism (USA).